Giannoni becomes a Viking again |

Giannoni becomes a Viking again

Jim GrantJohn Giannoni III works with players during a South Tahoe Basketball Camp last month.

A tireless work ethic has always been the great equalizer for John Giannoni III when competing against taller and more athletically gifted guards.

That quality of outworking teammates and opponents on the court has continually allowed him to reach his basketball goals. But patience is what delivered Giannoni to the highest level of college basketball this summer.

The 2000 South Tahoe High graduate recently signed to play at Portland State University (Portland, Ore.) of the Big Sky Conference, only weeks after announcing his intention to walk on at Nevada.

“I thought I’d slip through the cracks in a way. I was getting worried a little bit that I wasn’t going to play anywhere,” said Giannoni, who missed 12 weeks of Dixie State College’s 2001-2002 national championship season because of injury. “As soon as I got off the phone, I took a deep breath. It was a long time coming … something I’ve worked for and something I’ve wanted all my life.”

New Portland State coach Heath Schroyer signed the 6-foot point guard on July 8, tendering a full scholarship, even though Giannoni missed more than half of last season with a partially torn tendon and muscle in his right thumb.

“I didn’t want any guarantees, but I wanted to put myself in the best possible position for playing time and a starting position,” Giannoni said. “I had nothing to back up my decent freshman year, and it’s kind of hard for someone to take a chance on you when you have nothing to show from your sophomore year.”

Joining Trent Johnson’s Nevada Wolf Pack obviously raised a lot of concern for someone who prefers the court over the bench.

“The problem was there were too many point guards for my liking,” Giannoni said. “I would have been one of four point guards at Nevada as opposed to two in Portland. It would have been tough to get playing time.”

Unless Schroyer’s roster is amended before practice opens in October, Giannoni should be a leading candidate to run the Vikings’ offense.

“He wanted to sign a JC point guard because they only have a freshman walk-on,” Giannoni said. “If I decided to come, he told me he wasn’t going to bring in any other point guard. It’s mine to go get or mine to lose.”

Giannoni ran the point for former South Tahoe High coach Tom Orlich when the Vikings won a division title in 1998-99 and division and zone titles in 1999-2000.

“This opportunity is going to give him playing time and a chance to run his own team, so that’s really exciting for him,” Orlich said.

Not wanting to squander the opportunity or let down the coach who believes in him, Giannoni has been preparing for his junior season, morning, afternoon and night. He shoots 300-400 jump shots in the morning, lifts weights in the afternoon and plays in pickup games in the evenings.

“I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity,” said Giannoni, who spent part of his summer conditioning with Kings point guard Mike Bibby and UCLA sharpshooter Jason Kapono in Sacramento.

Giannoni wasn’t granted a medical redshirt season after missing most of the Rebels’ NJCAA championship run. However, Giannoni’s disappointment of losing his starting job to injury didn’t prevent him from encouraging his teammates throughout the last half of the season.

“Guys were complaining about sideaches and cramps during our 6 a.m. workouts. I’d tell them, ‘That’s what champions feel like. You’ll find out why we’re doing this,’ ” he said.

Dixie needed a slam dunk by LSU-bound Jaime Lloreda with 1.1 seconds remaining to beat Snow 59-58 to win the regional championship and advance to the NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Rebels (34-3) then needed to overcome 15-point deficits in both the national semifinals (Schoolcraft, Mich.) and finals (Coffeyville, Kan.) to earn their rings.

“It was an unbelievable experience when you think about it,” said Giannoni, who played in three of four national tournament games, including 5 minutes in the 82-81 championship victory over Coffeyville. “I won a national championship; not a whole lot of people in America can say that at any level or about any sport.”

As the games get bigger, Giannoni’s championship rings grow larger. His national title ring is 14 karat gold and contains nine diamonds.

“I got two rings from coach Orlich, and I love them. I thought those were big, but this one is three times as big,” Giannoni said. “It takes a little bit to put my hand in my pocket. I wear it around, but I try not to show it off. It’s pretty noticeable and most people ask about it anyway.”

Schroyer told Giannoni that the goal is to put another ring on his point guard’s finger before his college eligibility runs out in two years.

“Waking up at 6 a.m., having the same determination and focus and getting the right sleep, it brings you all together,” Giannoni said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing in Portland. We’ll shoot for one (ring) now and see what happens.”

One thing is certain: Giannoni will do more than his share to help the Vikings reach their best.

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